How To Make An Idea A Product – Ideas can come from anywhere. But how do product managers ensure they are working on a customer-driven product? By tapping into the insights provided by customer feedback, of course. And how do product managers collect, organize, prioritize and align teams around these ideas? Use the correct process.
Here’s a scenario you’re probably familiar with: A product manager acts as the de-facto idea manager of… everything: processes, systems, tools, strategies. They gather key customer insights and product information by jumping from meeting to meeting with the team that has this information. They tried and failed to capture these insights using multiple spreadsheets, sticky notes and dashboards.
How To Make An Idea A Product
She also has a backlog of ideas to organize! But deep down, it bothered him to learn that a team would never build because priorities are always changing in a highly competitive industry. They are responsible for high-priority efforts ensuring teams are aligned and working on the most impactful features and ideas. It’s hard to manage, because people are complex, but there’s no progress without buy-in and alignment.
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And this is only a quarter of what a prime minister has to do consistently and consistently all the time.
But what do all headaches in that situation have in common? All of them can be solved by having the right idea management process in place. Allow us to explain what we mean ✋
Idea management is a nice umbrella term for the process of gathering customer feedback and collating it in one place, turning that feedback into actionable insights, prioritizing the ideas generated from those insights, and then committing them to a product roadmap.
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Customer feedback comes from various customer-facing teams working on the product. It comes from sales, support, customer success, product and design and development. It comes in every format: Zendesk/Intercom messaging, email and social voice. An idea management system acts as a repository where everyone in the organization can submit feedback and organize it in a way that is visible and easily searchable to the product team.
Ultimately, by keeping that information in a dynamic knowledge base available to the entire product team, an idea management system makes it easier to build products that are customer-centric and customer-valued.
An idea management system includes a strategy for engaging stakeholders and customer-facing teams when it’s time to prioritize and commit to something on the roadmap. The entire product team works together to prioritize a list of ideas generated from customer feedback insights.
These prioritized ideas are then evaluated against feasibility, feasibility, desirability, and usability constraints and benchmarked against business goals, the competitive market, and the breadth of research the product management team has done so far (the larger context in which the product exists).
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Without an integrated idea management system and an existing strategy that allows product managers to listen to, analyze and collaborate with stakeholders on all relevant customer feedback, product managers face headaches:
If the product team doesn’t have a plan to overcome this problem, how can they make sure they’re building the product based on actual user needs?
Ideally, a strategic idea management process should help product managers succeed in capturing, prioritizing, and planning the right ideas.
With the right idea management process in place, product managers can stop feeling like important insights are lost in a sea of unremembered customers. This empowers the entire team and gives visibility into how and why ideas are prioritized.
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When product managers enter the product planning space, they enter it with a deep, empathetic understanding of the users, the market, and the ecosystem in which the product exists.
What some call the instincts of our product managers (their ability to make good decisions for product direction) is actually a combination of hyper-located knowledge: user research, market and competitive research, and business research.
In all cases, the customer does not know the product and the product manager. But consumers still have a unique kind of core knowledge that can only come from their experience with a product. And in some companies, where product managers can’t change the tools they build, this feedback is critical to the long-term health of the product.
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Plus, teams can submit customer feedback to a centralized inbox using a handy Chrome extension. Customer-facing teams can enter feedback into inboxes, tagging it based on product components or features used.
Customer feedback, in the context of idea management, comes from two types of sources: structured and unstructured feedback.
Constructive feedback is the type of planning, hypothesizing, and asking purposeful questions that dive into specific parts of product use and user behavior. It is more strategic than the unstructured type because it requires intentionally approaching specific segments, individuals, or types of customers to elicit a specific response.
Non-constructive feedback is the unsolicited, unsolicited type that is collected from everyone on the team working in a customer-facing capacity. This feedback can fall on a spectrum from complaints about the current product to feature requests and suggestions. It can come from anyone, so PMs are better informed with feedback like this.
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This kind of feedback is much more manageable if you have tools like these available to help you connect everything to one organized platform.
A little listening in idea management involves more than collecting all the feedback and focusing it in one place. It’s one of the most important skills in a product manager’s toolkit: knowing which problems and needs are worth solving and which aren’t.
Product success is related to the time a PM spends understanding a large research context that requires a lot of information coming from hundreds of different places.
All feedback is important, but not all feedback should be treated equally. Feedback is only good when it comes with the necessary context to decide whether something should be worked on or put in the backlog. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask these questions about every response that comes through the pipeline:
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Finally, in the gap between organizing feedback into accessible categories and prioritizing it, the product manager should ask three stake questions about each potential idea before calculating it with a prioritization method:
This is a recipe for disaster: prioritize which ideas are turned into binding roadmap initiatives based solely on the number of requests and votes. If it were easy, the priority would not be a thorn in the side of the Prime Minister.
Customer feedback may come from irrelevant user segments or be rooted in problems that can be solved by solutions already offered by existing products. Without a fair evaluation of the internal and external factors that determine whether an idea will succeed, there are many unnecessary risks.
If the idea is a time sink and resource drain that has little or no impact on product development? The question alone should send chills down the spines of both new and seasoned product professionals. Can product managers do anything to ensure that risks, constraints and potential opportunities are calculated, calculated and widely agreed upon? If so, how?
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Here, we’re fans of value vs. effort and rice. Many of us offer them as preferred frameworks in our idea management suite.
But if you prefer a quick pen and paper / whiteboard approach, the value vs. effort matrix is a straightforward way to go about it.
The 2×2 matrix helps product teams quantify and visualize the resources needed to realize an idea (effort, cost, risk) and how the idea impacts business goals (often labeled ‘value’ or ‘impact’).
Calculating effort is very easy: just add up the number of work hours per person needed to build the idea. Value, also known as impact or complexity, is a bit trickier. To calculate the nebulous (and speculative) value of an idea, have your team match the idea with specific metrics and goals they’ll push forward. Assign a numerical value to how important the idea is to meeting that business goal.
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A priority matrix is not the only source of truth when determining which ideas become initiatives in a roadmap. But it’s a good way to get a baseline or standard that everyone can agree on.
Once you have an idea that your team is ready to commit to, it’s time to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of buy-in and alignment.
After assessing the idea against all relevant factors affecting product direction (competitive analysis, internal goals, value vs. effort), it’s time to project it into a roadmap.
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